King’s College London presents THE AMERICANA by Maria Vigar: Theatre Review

Now I’m not really a religious person, but I can’t say that I wasn’t stunned by the ethereal beauty of King’s College Chapel and the spirituality it brought to Maria Vigar’s deeply moving play, The Americana. Providing an ornate backdrop to this otherwise stripped-back solo performance, the College Chapel was a most fitting stage upon which to tell the tale of a fiercely passionate matriarch and the lengths to which she would go to protect her children.

Written and performed by Vigar, The Americana is a one-woman piece set in a mountain village during the Greek Civil War, a conflict sprung from the rise of Communist insurgents in Greece following the Second World War. The story belongs to two women: The Americana (so named because she married an American) and her eldest daughter, Katerina. The Americana, before being placed under house arrest as a traitor, helped her children escape to safety when their village was taken by the Communist Army. In her new home, Katerina plays a vital role in the community: caring for displaced children, participating in local politics and expressing a desire to join the freedom fighters up in the mountains. Vigar paints and portrays the two characters with great authenticity, using considered differences in physicality to make the roles discrete; employing a youthful energy as Katerina which stands in stark contrast against the frail form of the Americana.

The accompanying score of incidental music, played predominantly by Rachel Coe on haunting clarinet, harmonises effectively with the spoken text. The moments in which the music overlaps with the Americana’s prayer are particularly moving. Calling out the ignorance of her God, the Americana rails against her fate and fearlessly disowns the men that have let her down so appallingly. Both her husband and father have deserted, leaving her to the mercy of her war-torn land. Her fragile strength reminds us that society still fears the danger of an outspoken and unruly woman. The mirroring of her final appearance against the dramatization of Katerina’s final letter to her makes a huge impact: the finality of both of their decisions hanging in the air with the Americana’s shocking confession. 

With its varying phrases and changes in tone, the play is rather like a piece of music in itself. There is some beautiful imagery conjured by Vigar’s written language, and I love her fluid combination of Greek and English dialect within the piece; it would have been great to hear more of it. There is wonderful light and shade in both Vigar’s script and in her performance, as she carefully balances the tonal shifts in the story and the very differing circumstances of her separated protagonists. Her Americana recounts fond memories of the past as it’s where she feels safest, whilst her Katerina looks forward to a new liberal future. What’s truly heart-breaking though is, despite seemingly communicating with one another throughout the course of the play, neither woman really knows the fate of the other and never will. Although Katerina’s fate isn’t directly revealed to us, the image of her marching off into the distance wearing a military uniform she has yet to grow into is possibly the most tragic part of the play.

Something I found particularly endearing about Maria Vigar’s performance throughout the evening was that she occasionally got a little ahead of herself – so eager to tell us the next line of the story before she’d finished the last. This shows just how passionate she is about what she has created. I believe the personal connection between a writer-performer and their script is the closest of all artistic relationships, and you can certainly feel that The Americana is a labour of love for Vigar. Her storytelling is highly engaging, possessing a dynamic quality that often proves elusive to those delivering monologue. She bravely leaves herself exposed and rises to the challenge gracefully.

© Hannah Roe, 2016

 

THE AMERICANA

Written and performed by Maria Vigar

At the College Chapel

King’s College London, Strand, WC2R 2LS

14th and 15th April 2016

 

Director – Rachel Fowler

Musician – Rachel Coe

Composer – Ian Schofield

 

Author's review: 
4